Happy 2 Year!
Today marks 2 whole years with my angel of a boyfriend, Ian. I don't usually discuss my romantic life on my blog because frankly, it has little to do with stress and anxiety management. That said, healthy relationships are vital to living well and creating your own happiness. So for that reason I am choosing to celebrate my 2 year anniversary with Ian by finally discussing my relationship with you.
Ian and I met at Saddleback College over 7 years ago. Today he is one of about 5 people outside of my family that I maintain a close relationship with that has known me for so long. The main reason being: I have changed A LOT. This change has proven to be key to the success of our relationship, but it was never my intention in the first place to change to mold myself to fit better in this relationship. In reality, I didn't consider our relationship as something that would ever be rekindled. I apologize, I am getting ahead of myself...
When Ian and I first met in January of 2012 we were both in relationships and I thought he was the biggest class clown I'd ever come across. So we started out as friends. For that spring semester we worked on group projects together, discussed life after class and really just became laughing buddies. Eventually the attraction was too much to ignore so after ending our relationships, we started dating. Quickly we noticed an
immaturity in ourselves that was sabotaging everything and we ended the relationship after a few short months. We went our separate ways, reconnecting only a few times over phone calls.
Fast-forward 5 years, both now with our own careers we found ourselves both single again. Him living with friends, me packing up my life in Minnesota and moving back out to California. Without too much hesitation we decided to get together to "catch up". The moment he walked up the steep driveway of my mom's house in San Clemente, CA and I looked into those eyes it was as if the past 5 years melted away. I saw him. I saw myself, 19 and crushing. The difference, I wasn't 19, I had grown up so much since then.
The next few weeks were characterized by us dancing around the real feelings that were bubbling to the surface again and trying to maintain some sort of surface level relationship that for whatever reason felt safer. Then I had a moment of clarity. Saturday night, July 29th of 2017 I called him and laid everything out there. My head had me believing exposing my true feelings would lead to the end of this summer fling, but my heart knew I had to say something before I ended up broken again. Much to my surprise he simply said, "ok, let's do this, for real". We've been together ever since.
Two years later and I can honestly say that not everything has been a walk in the park and there have been times where I have questioned everything, but I know in my heart I will love him more each day and whatever comes up, we can work through it together. He is my person and we are a team.
How We Maintain a 'Healthy Relationship':
I don't like to 'toot my own horn', but I feel like if I'm going to do it, today is the day. Ian and I have a very healthy relationship. Do we fight? Yes. Do we disagree on things? Yes. But more than that we respect each other enough to admit we ourselves might be wrong. Nothing about our relationship has been about keeping score and at the end of the day that has kept us both humble. Ultimately, we are a team and if one of us loses, we both lose. If one of us wins, we both win.
That's so much easier said than done, I get that. I think the key shift I made was understanding that I cannot be attached to the result. I don't remember the last time I worried about breaking up with Ian. I acknowledge that someday that could happen. We are after all, only human. However, I don't let myself be attached to that end-all, be-all result. Instead, everyday is something new and will present us with challenges and victories we aren't expecting. So I take it all one day at a time.
Healthy relationships, to me, are ultimately about communication and respect. It's acknowledging that it's not going to be perfect, but I respect and love him enough to be ok with that. It's being there for that person and celebrating their wins, even when you don't necessarily agree. It's understanding that you're a team first and individuals second, at least in the context of your relationship.
My #1 Tip for Dispelling Stress in a Relationship:
Communication. If you only have time to get good at one thing in a relationship, let it be communication. And spoiler alert, you will NEVER be a perfect communicator. You will always be working on better communication practices.
Ian and I like to have check-ins with ourselves and each other, wherein we discuss what's come up for us in the relationship and how it is or isn't working for us. We've learned to be straight-forward, even when it's difficult and even if we fear it could drive the other person away. Why do we do this? It helps to prevent feelings of resentment.
Neither of us are perfect and we both do things the other doesn't like, but we make each other aware of those things. We've found it beneficial to discuss issues as they come up and if necessary, first take a couple of hours to digest our feelings about the situation. It's important to reflect on why you're feeling a particular way before word-vomitting it all in case you accidentally say something in the heat of the moment that you cannot take back. But that's not an excuse for not communicating at all.
Expectations - What are they good for?:
I have a love-hate relationship with expectations. Expectations can be good in that they prevent us from settling. But unhealthy expectations or impossible expectations can be bad in that we're always setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Generally speaking, I don't have very many expectations of Ian and that has really done well for us. I'm hardly ever let down if he doesn't do something I was expecting him to. On the other hand, I do have certain expectations that are sort of like rules within the relationship, like no cheating. That's a fair expectation.
One thing I have learned about relationship expectations is it helps to be upfront about your expectations. I always used to expect boyfriends to want to spend time with me and then get mad when they kept making plans with their guy friends. When we'd fight about it I'd justify my expectation by saying, "I want you to want to see me, I shouldn't have to prompt it". Well, HELLO, I wasn't exactly prompting hanging out either, so why was I holding them to a higher standard than myself?
Disclose your expectations, or don't be upset if they're not met. I know Ian wants to make me happy, I also know he's not a mind reader. So, I like to tell him what will make me happy. It works like magic, actually. Leading up to Valentine's day instead of expecting my favorite dinner to be made I tell him, "hey, I'd love for you to make your kung pao chicken for Valentine's day, that would really make me happy". Then sure enough, the day comes around and he makes my favorite dinner.
It would be so cool if he could read my mind and just figure out that that's what i want, but sadly I am not dating a meta-human so alas, I get to tell him what I want. Now there is another way to go about this. I could not say anything, but doing that means I also let go of the expectation that I will get exactly what I want.
I have grown a lot from the person I used to be in that I don't give the same expectations to the future as I once did. I genuinely hope we have a long, beautiful life together, but am way more concerned with where our relationship is right now. I want to continue to foster this healthy relationship and work to build on the foundation we have created and I trust that the future will work itself out the way it is supposed to. I know some of our loved ones are looking for a more definitive answer, but this is the answer I am giving and the one everyone will have to live with. As Ian says when asked about our future, "you'll know".